Posts Tagged ‘suffolk’

Beer Review: Ruddles County

18 June, 2009

THE hilarious yet delicious Ruddles Rhubarb is the only bottled Ruddles I’ve tried so far. That needs to change. Goodness knows what Ruddles could pull out of the bag next. So, from a shop in Bethnal Green in London’s East End, here is a £1.89 pence bottle of Ruddles County.

Ruddles County bottle

Where have I seen this shape of bottle before? You can put money on there being a familiar name on one of the labels. And, because it’s transparent, it’s like having a hunk of copper cast into the shape of a bottle.

Ruddles County neck label

The neck label isn’t what you’d call informative. With nothing more than the “Ruddles County” name, there is nothing to see here.

Ruddles County front label

It’s not very much better down on the front label, either. Yes, I love the “Ruddles” horseshoe motif. The slogan “Proper Country Ale” is exactly what you want to read on a bottle of old British ale. And the alcoholic volume of 4.7% isn’t bad. It’s not strong either, but it’s not bad. It’s just the absence of clues about the ale itself that annoy me. Hopefully the back label will have some actual information about what this beer is all about.

Ruddles County back label

A quick glace reveals that the back label of Ruddles County has all the information I want, and much more besides. They describe it as an “English Ale with a distinctive flavour of dark toffee and caramel combined with a crisp bitterness, derived from using rare Bramling Cross hops.” Sounds yummy.

Even though I know nothing about them, the addition of rare hops makes me want it even more. If you happen to know why Bramling Cross hops are so rare, leave a comment at the end of the post.

Below that we get the “story” bit that makes British ales that bit quirkier than those from the rest of the world. This ones rambles on about their horseshoe motif coming from the tradition of royalty and peers of the realm giving a horseshoe to the lord of the manor when they pass through England’s smallest county, Rutland. An idea that seems like a completely ineffective toll. Wouldn’t money have been a superior currency instead of horseshoes? That sort of small-scale thinking must be why the county of Rutland have ended up so small.

Under that is all the small print. There’s all the usual public health nonsense about recommended units of alcohol. This 500ml bottle, with its 4.7% payload weighs in at 2.4 UK units of alcohol by the way.

Under that, in very small writing is the answer to the question of why the bottle looked so familiar. The answer is that Ruddles is made by medium-sized regional brewing giant, Greene King, of Bury St, Edmunds in Suffolk. Their website is on the label too, which is www.greeneking.co.uk. To save you time, their Ruddles section is at http://www.greeneking.co.uk/launch_ruddles.htm.

So, what does Ruddles County taste like? Is it any good? And should you buy it? Time to crack it open and find out.

Ruddles County poured into a glass

Well the colour isn’t a surprise. The head is not bad. It’s nearly enough for you to forgive it for being a 500ml bottle instead of a proper pint (come on brewers, give us the pints our glasses were made for).

What does Ruddles County smell of? It smells interesting. Not strong. I’m not very good at this, but will go for words like ‘hoppy’ and ‘biscuity’. There’s probably some more odours in there too, all of which can be caught with the umbrella word ‘complex’. In short, it smells of ale.

What does Ruddles County taste like? The first sip reveals something stronger and more intense than I was expecting. The second sip is dominated by a taste of spicy hops. This if going to take a few more sips to understand.

A few more sips later, and I’m making progress. The label described the flavour as a “distinctive” one of “dark toffee and caramel”. Maybe they do. To me, they blend into something malty and biscuity. All of which is swept away by an intense rush of spicy, hoppy bitterness in a long, satisfying aftertaste. That must be where those Bramling Cross hops come into play.

What am I enjoying about Ruddles County? I like that intense hoppiness. Probably because of the Bramling Cross hops, it’s a different type of hoppiness to other hoppy ales. Instead of tasting like you’re drinking a hedgerow, it tastes like you’re drinking a hedge with dash of pepper sauce. It’s distinctive. It’s a risk taker and for that, you have to admire it. I like how well made it is. I like how clean and crisp it is.

What don’t I like about Ruddles County? Honestly, it’s hard going. If you normally drink the dark and heavy beers of the world, this won’t be a problem for you. I just happened to find it less than easy to drink. That distinctive, strong bitterness is going to put off some drinkers.

What’s the verdict on Ruddles County? It is a hoppy English ale, but different to the other hoppy ales. Those Bramling Cross hops give it an edge that the other hoppy ales don’t have. It proved too much for little old me, but some of you might love it. It’s good, but one for the adventurous drinker.

Rating: 3.7

Have you tried Ruddles County? What did you think of it? Do please leave your corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy, here in the comments.

Beer Review: Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip

16 December, 2008

OLDE TRIP but contemporary style. Having the shield label and writing on transparent labels and a transparent bottle makes this bottle of Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip look interesting. Interesting and familiar. Something about this bottle rings a bell. I’m sure I’ve seen the crown and “Estd 1799” embossed on the shoulder of another bottle.

Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip bottle

The neck label is the only bit that isn’t transparent. That makes it look out of place. It also doesn’t tell you anything about the ale within. If you’re going to stick a label around the neck of a beer bottle, use it to describe what the beer will be like. Not that I don’t mind being totally surprised by a beer. I like it. But normal people won’t.

Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip neck label

The front label is superb. It gets everything right.

Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip front label

First of all, it’s in the shape of a shield and it has old fashioned writing. If, like me, you’re looking for interesting bottles of ale, this bodes well. Under the glorious “Olde Trip” name, it then comes in with the details you want to know. First by describing itself as a “Premium Ale”. And then by giving the alcoholic volume of 4.3%.

Okay, I do like my ale to be a little stronger than that. But you can’t fault this front label. It gets to the point in a quirky way. And that’s good.

Over on the back label, we get the sort of story we’re looking for on a bottle of British ale. We also get some much needed answers to our suspicions.

Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip back label

The story is tenuous as the best of them. This one tells us how this ale has taken it’s name from “Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (AD1189)”. Apparently England’s oldest inn, at the foot of Nottingham Castle, where knights went for a drink before The Third Crusade. How charmingly politically incorrect. I’m liking this bottle more and more.

Under the story however, things start to look eerily familiar again. The sensible drinking message rings a bell. As does the malted barley symbol.

Down in the small print now and clearly displayed are the details you want to know. For instance, this 500ml bottle, with it’s 4.3% volume content weighs in at a reasonable 2.2 UK units of alcohol. Which means you can treat yourself to two bottle of Olde Trip before the government sends you a social worker.

Right at the very bottom of the label, in tiny writing is the answer to my suspicions. Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip is in fact brewed by Greene King in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. So, that explains that.

But, what will it be like? It’s a premium ale, so it could taste of just about anything. So the questions are simple ones. What will it taste like? And is it worth your money and time? Let’s crack it open and find out.

Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip poured

It fizzed right up. Even getting the glass in place swiftly couldn’t save a few drops from making an escape. I recommend playing video games until your reactions become fast enough to open this bottle.

Once safely in the glass however, it looks good. Not surprising. We knew exactly what colour it would be from the transparent glass bottle. But that dark ruby colour is most appetising.

It comes with a fairly good head, too. It didn’t froth up uncontrollably. Nor did it vanish into a few stray bubbles. Instead, it’s a creamy little layer.

What does it smell like? Rich and complex. There’s more different smells than I can make head or tail of. If pushed to stick my neck out, I’d say it smells chocolaty, roasted and fruity. Like a burnt Carbury’s Fruit & Nut. Maybe it’s because it’s been so very long since I had enjoyed an ale, but it smells wonderful. Not too strong and as complex traffic law.

Does it taste as delicious as it smells? A couple of gulps in, and first impressions are fairly good. It’s complex enough for me to need a few more gulps to make sense of the flavours. And it’s tasty enough to far for that to be an appealing challenge.

A few more gulps in, and Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip is coming into focus. What you get in a gulp first, are flavours. Frustratingly, they’re hard to decipher. They don’t last for long before they’re gone, wiped out by the aftertaste. The only flavours I’ve succeeding in identifying are something roasted and some fruit. The flavour part of Olde Trip isn’t exactly forthcoming.

What dominates a gulp of Olde Trip is the aftertaste. It rolls in purposefully and delivers it’s payload of hoppy bitterness. It’s a long lasting aftertaste too. How can I describe it? It tastes like a blend of leaves and twigs. And that, in my opinion, is what a hoppy and bitter ale should do.

Nearly at the bottom of the glass now, and I’m enjoying a few things about Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip. I like very much how complicated it is. I like how it looks and smells. I’m intrigued by the hoppy-ness that is, in the end, what Olde Trip is all about. I love how easy to drink it is. It’s not too bitter or off the wall to be off-putting. There is a lot to like about Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip.

Is there anything I’m not enjoying about Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip? Well, it made a mess on my kitchen work top. The flavours are hiding when they could elevate Olde Trip even higher by staying around for longer. It’s a little gassy and not easy to find in shops. Those however are not big complaints. The big complaint is that it doesn’t do anything new. I’ve tried hop driver ales before. This is an excellent example of one. But without those flavours being allowed to do something unique to the formula, it can’t make the final leap to greatness.

To sum up. Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip is an excellent example of an ale that gives you an interesting hoppy bitterness as an aftertaste. I thoroughly enjoyed this bottle. If you like this type of ale, then it’s worth your time and money. If you like light lager then you might not like it. I on the other hand have enjoyed ever gulp.

Rating: 4.29

Have you tried Hardys & Hansons Olde Trip? What did you think of it?
Leave your corrections, opinions, requests, recommendations and places to buy in the boxes below.

Beer Review: Greene King Abbot Ale

14 May, 2008

MY previous post involved testing big-name, high-volume ale Morland Old Speckled Hen. It turned out to be better than I feared. And it turned out to be from the Greene King brewing goliaths of the South-East.

It’s with some trepidation then, that I turn my attention this time, towards that other big-name, high-volume ale Greene King Abbot Ale. You know the one, normally on the same shelf as Old Speckled Hen, pretending to be competing with it.

Greene King Abbot Ale bottle

This 500 millilitre bottle is from my local Tesco. For exactly the same premium-end price as Old Speckled Hen.

The neck label starts us off with the familiar Greene King logo. And the “1799” date either side of it. A logo that looks suspiciously similar to the Morland logo.

Greene King Abbot Ale neck label

Under the big “Abbot Ale” name is some encouraging news. It transpires that Abbot Ale was a winner in the 2005 International Beer Competition.

Down to the front label, and everything is tasteful and stylish. In a way that’s similar to Old Speckled Hen? Let your thoughts be known in the comments please.

Greene King Abbot Ale front label

At the top, we get a closer look at that Greene King logo. Didn’t we see a simple line drawn logo dividing an established date on Morland Old Speckled Hen?

The “Abbot Ale” text and red and gold logo featuring, presumably, an abbot does an excellent job of creating the right romantic image. Next to that, in poorly contrasting lettering is the alcoholic volume, which is 5%.

Under that is a sentence. The sort of sentence that long to see on any proper ale bottle. And it reads thus: “Brewed longer for a distinctive, full flavour”. How appealing is that? You would normally only see that on the most obscure, rural ales. Remember that this ale is even available in tin cans. If they truly do pull off longer brewing and strong, distinctive flavours, that is quite a feat.

Over on the back label, and things are a little different to Old Speckled Hen. But there are some similarities.

Greene King Abbot Ale back label

The little “Beer to dine for” and “Contains Malted Barley” symbols are there. As is the quaint “Please take as much care enjoying our beers as we do brewing them”. Just below that is the confirmation of the link with the rest of the Greene King empire; the names “Bury St. Edmunds” and “Suffolk”. There’s also a web address of www.abbotale.co.uk. This website though, is rather more open about its Greene King credentials.

The bulk of the back label gets down to what Abbot Ale is all about.  They describe it as “full flavoured” and “smooth”. And that it has “fruit characters”, “malty richness” and “hop balance”. Good, but vague. But they haven’t finished there. This ale has been brewed with pale crystal, and amber malts. Whatever they are.

What haven’t I covered yet? The ever popular  UK units of alcohol. A good, round 2.5 units are in this bottle. If you count such things.

In the glass, the head is smaller and vanishes quicker than with Old Speckled Hen. It’s also somewhat darker in hue, and fizzier.

Greene King Abbot Ale poured into a glass

The smell is good. Mostly of malt. But accompanied by some hints of malted barley and hops. It’s a good blend. And again, different to what I expected.

And that blend is mirrored by the flavours. The main thing that you’ll taste are those malts. Which are quickly followed by fruitiness. And by some bitterness from the hops. But that bitterness doesn’t linger for long.

Just as the label describes it. It’s rich, smooth, full flavoured and well balanced. It really is all of those things. There’s plenty of flavour, yet none dominate. It’s also very drinkable. With so little to offend, even the more timid drinker will find Abbot Ale easy to stomach.

The downsides? It’s a little gassier than O.S.H. And because of that balance, none really stand out. And that makes it less distinctive and character filled that it would like to be.

Abbot Ale is another pleasant surprise. For a big-name, high-volume ale, it’s good. But not as good as some other ales out there, big-name or otherwise. This is drinkable on its own, but the entire time, I kept feeling the need to shovel a pub meal into my mouth. Abbot Ale then, is an ale best served with a hearty plate of pub grub.

Rating: 4.15

Have you tried Abbot Ale? Or any of it’s other varieties? What did you think?
Got any corrections, additions, comments, thoughts, ideas or suggestions? Any other products you want me to “review”? Then leave a message in the usual place.

Beer Review: Sole Bay Brewery – Adnams Broadside Strong Original

12 April, 2008

TESCO have a new range of bottled beers in stock. So it’s my solemn duty to review every last one of them. This one is Adnams Broadside Strong Original. It’s from the Sole Bay Brewery from Southwold, Suffolk, England. And it costs slightly above average for a 500 millilitre bottle.

Adnams Broadside bottle

The dark glass and background label give this bottle a stylish dark look. I think it looks like a small bottle of rum or some other spirit. It looks good.

The little neck label has a small illustration of some sort of sword wielding warrior and the slogan “Beer From The Coast”. Something that turns up again and again, including embossed on the glass at the bottom of the bottle.

Adnams Broadside neck label

The front label uses colour to good effect. Even if all the words are a little jumbled up. The Adnams name is orientated one way. The Broadside name another. And there’s the reference Solebay and 1672. It’s not immediately clear if Adnams or Solebay (or should that be Sole Bay?) are the brewer. What does get my attention is the picture of a ship. And the 6.3% volume. Which makes this a strong ale. And I like strong ales. That’s actually why I chose this beer over others on the shelf.

Adnams Broadside front label

Over on the back label, and the nautical theme continues. The little story tells us that Broadside commemorates a 1672 navel battle with the Dutch Republic, just off the Southwold coast. Presumably, that’s the time in history when the Dutch decided that wars weren’t their thing, and turned their attention to tulips and soft drugs instead.

Adnams Broadside back label

Keeping things to the point, the label continues with a short description of what to expect from this beer. This includes mentions of “fruit cake aromas, almonds and conserved fruit”. The language might be different to what’s on most beer bottles, but I think it means that this will have plenty of complex, fruity flavours.

The web addresses listed include www.adnams.co.uk and www.beerfromthecoast.co.uk. Both of which work, and take you to some very professional and informative parts of the Adnams empire. That’s an improvement over the addresses given on some ale bottles out there.

One interesting addition is on the little red bar at the bottle of the rear label. It turns out that this is the lightest 500 millilitre beer bottle in the UK. And that is because light glass has been used. Which it transpires is better for the environment. George Monbiot will be pleased.

Also on the small print, this 500 millilitre bottle has 3.2 UK units of alcohol. And has the slogan “Remember, you can have too much of a good thing”. Very responsible. I’d suggest that something similar be printed on the cans of high-strength lager, but you couldn’t call them a “good thing”. Adnams on the other hand, call a beer to “savour”, so let’s see if they’re right.

Adnams Broadside in a glass

I thought I had poured carefully. As you can see, the head disagreed by frothing up, held together only by surface tension. And that was with stopping and starting, letting it settle every so often. Still, it soon settled down enough to drink. Be warned if you try to pour from the bottle yourself. Broadside needs time and care.

Apart from the head, a couple of other things struck me. First was the colour. This is much darker than I was expecting. It looks more like a stout. This is partly backed up by the other thing that struck me. The smell. The label describes the aroma as being like a rich fruit cake. I’d describe it as smelling like the rich malts you find in stouts. It is very rich smelling indeed. But what does it taste like?

The first gulp leaves me thinking “what is that?” It does have that deep, rich, malty flavour of a stout. But the aftertaste, or should that be aftertastes, go beyond that. This is going need a few more gulps to understand…

A few more gulps in, I think I’m cracked it. The aftertaste is where you’ll find all those fruits and things mentioned on the label. That makes this an unusual beer. The first tastes and flavours are like that of a stout. But it’s more than that. After those flavours, it changes to the fruity and hoppy flavours that you’d find in an ale.

This is a very strong flavoured brew. Full-bodied and with lots of character are some of the jargon terms that get used for this kind of beer. It is somewhat gassy, but it is smooth and easy to drink. The quality is much in evidence.

The flip side of this is that it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. In fact, I’m still unsure whether to love it or hate it myself. If you like stout, you’d be insane not to try this. If you like ales with lots of complex flavours. Or if you like beers and ales with lots of fruit, then by all means give Broadside a go. But be prepared for the possibility that you’ll find it to be just too much.

Personally, I’m going to rate it as above average. It’s got quality in spades. Flavours and taste combinations that I previously hadn’t thought possible. And originality. But it’s just too stout-like and inaccessible for me. And will be for other people to. It’s an excellent half-a-litre, but I wouldn’t open another bottle straight after it. I would however be eager to try other beers carrying the Adnams name to see if the positives carry-over.

Rating: 4.025

Have you tried Adnams Broadside? Or anything else by Adnams?
What did you think of it?
Comments in the comments box please.

Beer Review: Greene King Export Strength IPA

2 January, 2008

Welcome to my first beer review of 2008! And we begin with the final beer I had of 2007. Unlike the incredibly complicated Innis & Gunn before it, I was looking forward to something more straightforward. Something that wouldn’t need new words to be invented just to describe it. Well that’s exactly what Green King’s IPA turned out to be…

Have a look at the bottle. Apart from the big green label, it looks unremarkable.
Bottle of Greene King Export Strength IPA
Closer inspection of the label reveals this drink to have originated from Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. Not a place I’ve yet visited, but the name evokes the mental image of the sort of English county town in which you would want to sip a bottle of fine ale. The label also has a year on it; 1799. That’s a good thing. Heritage is a strength with rustic old ale like this one.

Greene King IPA front label

The rear label goes on to tell the story of how IPA was conceived. And helpfully, what IPA stands for. It transpires that IPA stands for India Pale Ale. Unfortunately, we are not treated to an ale that was actually brewed in India. Rather, it was exported from England to India. It goes on the explain how in 1827, a cargo including this ale was shipwrecked, salvaged, auctioned and proved popular. Green King went on to recreate the IPA taste, producing what we have here: a 500ml bottle (that’s about three quarters of a pint) at 5% volume.

Greene King IPA back label

Poured into a glass, there’s a rather disappointing thin head. This could just be a characteristic of pale ales, I haven’t had enough to be sure. Exactly as it describes on the label, the aroma is hoppy and the taste is bitter.

Greene King IPA poured into a glass

And that sums up the drink. It is a straightforward bitter. I couldn’t discern any notable difference between this and any other bitter that I’ve tried. It’s a solid, drinkable bitter, a.k.a. a pale ale. But that for me is the problem. It’s impossible to compare it to the original IPA on which it is based. And it doesn’t seem do anything exceptional or unusual. If I visit Bury St. Edmunds or any other part of Suffolk, I’ll be happy to have a pint of this. But it’s hard to find a compelling reason to recommend it to a shopper with a supermarket shelf full of choices. This is one for the pale ale/bitter fanatics.

Rating: 2.5


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